More than a Pilgrim: Harry Bailly in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales

Yıldız N.

14th International IDEA Conference: Studies in English, Trabzon, Turkey, 6 - 08 October 2021, pp.93

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Trabzon
  • Country: Turkey
  • Page Numbers: pp.93
  • Karadeniz Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Geoffrey Chaucer’s pilgrims in his monumental work The Canterbury Tales have been widely treated by the scholars who produced copious articles and books on the countless matters focusing on each pilgrim. Nevertheless, little attention has been paid to Harry Bailly, the striking innkeeper of the text. Bailly guides a group of medieval people of different ranks to the shrine of Saint Thomas a Becket in Canterbury which provides the reader with the greatest panorama of the medieval period. As the main framework of the story, Bailey asks pilgrims to tell two stories on their way to Canterbury and two more on the way back. Bailly does not tell a story himself; yet, he becomes so successful in handling of the disputes among the pilgrims and putting all of them in order. Our wise host wants to be entertained by joyful stories and every time he has a say for the story tellers. He is also very cautious about the traditional social order and the three estates doctrine which constitutes the backbone of the medieval society. The Canterbury Tales can be envisaged without any of its pilgrims, but not without a Harry Bailly. He occupies a unique position as the maestro of the pilgrims. He is the authoritative figure, and a know-it-all. Throughout the text, he performs divergent roles as a host, a leader, a judge, a critic, a governor and an observer. Accordingly, this paper aims to dwell on Harry Bailly in the Canterbury Tales to present him as the inevitable character of the masterpiece of Geoffrey Chaucer.

Keywords: Geoffrey Chaucer, the Canterbury Tales, medieval period, Harry Bailly